The USS Pensacola, a 130.5 foot long screw steamer, was built at the Pensacola Navy Yard where it was launched on August 15, 1859. It was towed to the Washington Navy Yard in December of that year for the installation of its machinery and then commissioned for service in the war on September 16, 1861. The ship mounded one massive XI inch Dalghren and 16 IX inch Dalghren guns.
The Lighthouse was there at the time of the USS Pensacola accident.
Located about six nautival miles east of Key Largo, the reef takes its name from the British ship HMS Carysfort, which ran aground there in 1770.
The following was quoted from a private letter by the Baltimore Sun on February 26, 1862, p. 2:
On February 4, at a quarter past 12 o'clock A.M., or ship struck upon Lead Barry Reef, on the coast of Florida, and here we are, with the wreckers all around us. We have taken out fourteen of our large guns, and all of the shot, shell, chains, anchors, &c., lightening her about 200 tons. If fair weather continues, I think we will float by noon tomorrow. Should a second storm stet in, we will all go to the bottom.
|Carysfort Reef Light|
The effort to float the Pensacola was successful and the ship finally reached Key West on February 11, 1862. She suffered only minor damage to her machinery.
One of the most famous warships of the war, the Pensacola went on to run the passage between Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip below New Orleans on April 24, 1862. After the war the Pensacola steamed entirely around the world and surprisingly remained in active use by the U.S. Navy until December of 1911. She was intentionally sunk by the Navy off San Francisco Bay, California, the following year.